Groups of Tusculum College students could be found Thursday surveying creek banks, painting school playground equipment, and repairing a riding rink used in the rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries.
These projects and many others made the community the classroom for these students as the college marked the annual Nettie Fowler McCormick Service Day, one of the oldest traditions at the state’s oldest institution of higher learning.
Participating in the Service Day activities were approximately 300 students, including freshmen and members of the Bonner Leader organization on campus, and about 25 faculty and staff members.
In the past, each class and sometimes two classes were each assigned a separate service project, but this year was different as the college assisted in a large project that involved seven classes - more than 100 students. These classes participated in the College Creek survey project, which involved splitting the students into groups to survey sections of the creek from an area on Rufe Taylor Road, following the creek’s path to the Tusculum campus and then beyond toward Nolichucky River.
Under the supervision of representatives from such agencies as the Soil Conservation District, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the students measured creek banks, described the conditions of the creek banks in writing, noted entry points of storm water drains, etc., and marked coordinates of the sections using GPS (Global Positioning System) units.
The information gathered by the students will create a database of information to be used in applying for an EPA grant for storm water control and creek restoration along College Creek. Paul Hayden, a soil conservationist with the Greene County Soil Conservation District, who is writing the grant proposal along with a representative from the TVA, said he was contacted after the project was announced during the summer by Tusculum’s Center for Civic Advancement about ways students could help.
From those conversations, a plan developed for students to conduct the surveys, and Hayden traveled to campus prior to the Service Day to teach the students about the project and the steps in conducting the survey.
“This creek’s primary pollution is siltation coming from not only storm water but also from disintegration of the embankments, which means there are no trees, no shrubs, no dense vegetation to keep the soil in place,” he said. The increase in silt in the creek leads to less insect life which in turns decreases the number of fish, and the students’ work on Thursday provides the information about the current conditions of the creek needed in the grant proposal, Hayden continued.
The grant is a five-year proposal to improve conditions along the creek and seeks funding of roughly $500,000 for the entire project, he said. If received, the college could receive $150,000 to $200,000 for use to control storm water runoff into the sections of the creek on campus, Hayden added.
Students and their instructors also traveled to seven other sites for a variety of service projects. Students at Rural Resources were split into small groups working on a variety of projects including creating large planters to be distributed to area residents to allow them to grow their own “mini-gardens,” painting, organizing supplies, and weeding.
Making improvements to the playground area at the Education Center of Greene County was the accomplishment of the morning for one class. At the Child Advocacy Center in Mosheim, students were able to provide assistance in a variety of ways, including some painting.
Two classes’ service involved working directly with the people served at their project sites. A class traveled to Comcare Inc., where they interacted with the clients. Another group went to Greeneville Care and Rehabilitation Center (formerly Lifecare West) where they entertained residents with games. Painting, landscaping, repairing fencing around a riding rink, and unloading hay bales and sawdust for the horse barn kept the students who went to the Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center in Limestone busy. The work of the students and others who volunteer their time is very much appreciated, said Wayne Hunigan, program director at the Crumley House.
“We are a small organization and we don’t have a large staff,” he said. “When students and other organizations volunteer it means a lot to us. It allows us to get projects done that would be difficult for us to do without help.” The repairs to the riding rink, the painting, and landscaping were such projects, he added.
Another class stayed on campus, going to the Doak House Museum where the students helped assemble about 1,000 craft kits to be used in the museum’s upcoming educational programs for public school children.
The day of service is named for the college’s first major benefactor, Nettie Fowler McCormick, the widow of the inventor of the mechanized harvestor and founder of the company known as International Harvester. Nettie Fowler McCormick Service Day was established in 1913 by the trustees of Tusculum in recognition of her beneficence to the school. Initially, the day had an emphasis on sprucing up the campus, in honor of her love of cleanliness and good order. The day has since evolved to provide service throughout the community, as well as on campus.